Cayla O’Connel Davis Looks Beyond the Lace and Frills
For too long, we’ve been putting up with sub-par panties that fall apart after one season and have far too many frills. Enough of that life. Meet Cayla O’Connell Davis, the co-founder of Knickey, a sustainable undies line that’s here to protect our vaginal health, sans chemicals that should be nowhere near our ‘down under’, and not to mention completely affordable at $13 a pair. Most importantly, they’re insanely soft.
No bows necessary because there’s nothing sexier than clean materials, unbeatable comfort, and silhouettes that require nothing to pair with but an oversized tee. We sat down with founder Cayla O’Connell about the underwear revolution she started – so before you jump to add these to your cart, read on for all the details you should know about the underwear brand that’s changing the game.
We hear that Knickey is in the business of cutting through the noise— so are we. What are the top things we should know about what makes Knickey so important?
Cayla: After working in design and retail, we learned firsthand the detriment that the fashion industry has on our planet, and its people. We vowed to make products that are better for the earth, and better for us – starting with the first layer we don daily: undies. Knickey offers the best basic briefs from certified organic cotton, and the world’s first Undie Recycling Program that diverts old intimates from landfill.
We adhere to the highest standards out there for earth-friendly production, process safety and customer health. All of our supply chain partners and vendors must meet strict standards of conduct and production, and namely, disclose this information via third-party auditors and certification entities. This ensures the validity of sustainability, materiality and value claims across our products and the entire supply chain.
As women, we all love feeling confident and sexy in our undies from day to night. Can you give us the 4-1-1 about why it’s so important to choose undies made of organic cotton?
Cayla: Most underwear out there is made from synthetic materials which are derived from crude oil, and treated with toxic chemicals [such as formaldehyde, cadmium, and PFCs] – yuck! These garments are not breathable, and can actually cause your body harm by acting as a breeding ground for bacteria: trapping heat and moisture near your nethers. At Knickey, we believe that these toxic chemicals and their unwanted side-effects [yeast infections, UTIs, vaginal irritation, etc.] have no business up in your business.
Organic cotton was the obvious choice for us when we launched Knickey – in fact, the material selection came even before the product itself! As a general rule, it is important to note that not all cotton is created equal. While conventional cotton is generally a better choice than synthetics (such as nylon, rayon and viscose) – it is heavily treated with chemicals throughout manufacturing and can expose the wearer to high levels of toxic chemicals and carcinogens. Certified organic cotton on the other hand, prevents the use of such harmful chemicals in production, and has the added benefit of being better for the environment to harvest. It is grown without the use of genetically modified seeds, toxic pesticides, or harmful fertilizers, and in processing, saves water, recycles waste and prioritizes renewable energy sources to reduce overall climate impact!
We eat organic food, use clean skincare and beauty products – but we rarely reflect on what the clothes we are putting on our bodies are made of. That’s why we make non-toxic undies from certified organic cotton — so that you and your most precious parts can breathe easy.
Low Rise Thong, $14
Mid-Rise Hipster, $14
What was your main inspiration behind Knickey? And what was it like seeing your dream come to life?
Cayla: We started Knickey to address what we felt was a significant gap in the market: underwear that brought together comfort, aesthetics, and earth-friendly materials. Previous to Knickey, customers were forced to choose between cotton ‘granny panties’ or impractical lingerie made from synthetics – and any existing sustainable options were either unaffordable–or undesirable. We built Knickey to prove that you really can have it all: certified organic cotton undies that prioritize both style and function, at an accessible price.
Not only does Knickey sell comfortable underwear, but you have a recycling program too. Can you tell us what inspired you to start this and talk us through the process?
Cayla: While there are secondary and tertiary markets for the resale and reuse of wearable clothing, there is no way to responsibly dispose of previously worn undergarments through the same channels — as they cannot be redistributed by charity organizations, homeless shelters or collections boxes. Even with these resale markets about 85% of clothing in the US still ends up in a landfill, and your old undies are among them. You may be surprised to know that 95% of that discarded clothing can actually be recycled — including your old undies! At Knickey, we’ve been able to divert that previously uncaptured textile waste from landfill through our Recycling Program, which offers a second life for old undies, bras, socks and tights in the form of insulation and rug padding.
Considering the end-life of a garment is a new concept to many companies, but one of increasing importance since apparel production has ramped up so significantly over the past century. During my Masters research in Fashion Studies, I examined the effects of fast fashion on our resources and applied the Cradle-to-Cradle ideology as an alternative design approach to the traditionally linear product lifeline. In an ideal world, clothing would be designed for regeneration in some capacity, and in the absence of a perfectly circular fashion system it is absolutely the responsibility of the brand to consider the impact of their design choices – well after the products are sold and worn. At Knickey, we are excited to play a part in redefining the paradigm through textile recollection and recycling, and we continue to work toward improving our offering to consider the full impact of a garment’s lifecycle.
High-Rise Brief, $14
What’s next for Knickey? We want the inside scoop on what’s happening next.
Cayla: With sustainability at our core, we work tirelessly to better our business in the name of the environment. To make impactful change, we believe that reducing our footprint, making earth-friendly products and leading the field in innovation is essential, and exhibits our corporate stewardship. As a result, we will be increasing our transparency to these initiatives in all our consumer-facing touchpoints, as well as our website, in order to educate our community and combat greenwashing in the apparel industry. This past year we conducted a Materiality Assessment and published our first Annual Impact Report summarizing our environmental practices, quantifying our impacts, and setting our goals for 2020. Aside from launching new products [including more styles, a bra line and extended sizes] this year, we’re committed to complete carbon neutrality, and further improving upon our climate commitments!
Last question. We talk about the internet’s best brands (and we trust that you’ve tried a few). During these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to support our favorite brands. Could you share a favorite brand or product of yours – and why?
Cayla: I’m a sucker for great branding! I love what Recess is doing in terms of creativity and I am a recent convert to Thousand Fell – just bought my first pair and they are the most comfortable [and sustainable] sneaker on the market.